Published in partnership with Shadowproof.
United States officials misled the public about a Syrian terrorist group, the Khorasan Group, in the run up to air strikes in the country in 2014. The group was not new, as officials suggested, but essentially a group of reinforcements for the country’s Al Qaeda affiliate.
In September 2014, just prior to a United States military strike in Syria, the mainstream media began reporting on the Khorasan Group.
Even close observers of the U.S. War on Terror were unaware such a group existed, let alone that it was so powerful as to “pose a more direct and imminent threat to the United States” than ISIS, as was attributed to anonymous U.S. government national security officials speaking to the Associated Press
The rest of the mainstream media echoed the AP in their reporting, and, suddenly, the homeland was facing a new existential threat. But, after the US strikes in Syria against the Khorasan Group, national security officials began offering a “more nuanced picture” on the threat that verged on being outright defensive.
Both FBI Director James Comey and Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby admitted their intelligence in Syria was weak, but stood by the claim that the group existed. Comey said, “What I could see concerned me very much that they were working toward an attack.” Kirby gave a better safe than sorry rationale for the attack: “We hit them. And I don’t think we need to throw up a dossier here to prove that these are bad dudes.”
Journalists began calling bullshit and wondering if the group even existed, let alone posed such an imminent and serious threat to the United States.
A recent interview conducted by Shadowproof brought back up some old questions about U.S. military operations in Syria and the Khorasan Group. In our interview with veteran war reporter and terrorism expert Elijah Magnier, we asked if such a group existed and if they mattered. Magnier responded (around 42:15):
Shadowproof: Do you remember when Obama launched this bombing he talked about something called The Khorasan Group? […] Many experts were scratching their heads. […] Did you know who that group was? Are they still active?
Elijah Magnier: The Khorasan Group is, basically, the group that came from Khorasan. This is where Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to be based and they form the old core of Al Qaeda who joined the emir of Jabhat al-Nusra—or Al Qaeda in Syria—following the request of Ayman al-Zawahiri himself, who asked all of Al Qaeda to join Julani, to support him and to support Al Qaeda in Syria.
So the core group of Al Qaeda, many elements of the core group, form what is called the Khorasan Group and this is what the United States was targeting. Yes, they were targeting genuine targets there and they were targeting elements that have a long list of activity against the West, against the United States and Europe and that were involved in different kinds of relationships with at the time with Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and in Yemen, and in other parts of the Middle East. So yes, they exist.
These details were completely left out of the explanation during the run up to the 2014 U.S. strikes in Syria. Rather than being a new separate, menacing group, the Khorasan Group were essentially seasoned reinforcements for the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, known as Jabhat al-Nusra (recently rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham).
Now, in 2017, the U.S. has changed course and is arming groups in alliance with the Al Qaeda affiliate. And, again, the U.S. mainstream press is mindlessly repeating government talking points. The only constant is bad journalism.